Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Matthew 5:9

Tom Pennington  •  November 13, 2011
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For those of you who may be visiting with us today, let me say, that you find us in the middle of a study of the Sermon on the Mount. On Sunday nights, now for a couple of years, we've been studying the Gospel of Mark. And Mark is a great gospel but there's very little in Mark of the teaching of Jesus. It is primarily a gospel of action. And so, I wanted us to have exposure to the teaching ministry of Jesus Christ. And there's really no better place to do that than the Sermon on the Mount. It is the longest recorded sermon of our Lord's, and it is the most famous sermon of His. And so we are slowly working our way through this sermon. It will probably take us—I started to say months, but I'd better say years—so you don't question my integrity when that doesn't happen. It's a great journey already though. We have thoroughly enjoyed the beatitudes. The beatitudes, by the way, set the framework for the rest of the sermon, because in the beatitudes Jesus describes the marks of those who are already a part of His spiritual kingdom–the spiritual kingdom over which He rules. If you're a Christian, these beatitudes mark your life, not in perfection, but the reality is still there and can be seen by you and by others.

When I was growing up back in the 1960s and 70s, I was, of course, living in the era and the aftermath of the Viet Nam war, as were many of you. And every where you looked in those days, whether it was on tee shirts or clothing of various kinds, whether it was tattooed on people's skin, or whether it was graffiti painted on signs and billboards and in inner cities, you saw the peace sign. In the last ten years I've noticed that that peace sign has made a come-back—has become popular again. For many people, it's simply a decoration. There's really no serious significance to it at all. For others, it's a statement of their desire to see the current wars, in which America is involved end. But for some people, I'm convinced, that then and now, it's much more. It is a reflection of a deep desire, I think, buried within the residual image of God in every man, a desire for a state of true and lasting peace, a world in which there is no conflict. And of course, we are all painfully aware that nothing could be further from the reality of the world in which we live. We live in a world that is literally permeated by conflict of various kinds. We see that reality played out on the world stage. Historians make this very clear to us. In fact, the historians Will and Ariel Durant, who wrote that marvelous series The Story of Civilization also wrote a little book entitled The Lessons of History–sort of a compilation of the lessons they'd observed from observing history. And this is what they write. "War is one of the constants of history, and has not diminished with civilization and democracy. In the last 3400 years of recorded history, only 268 have seen no war". In the last 3400 years of recorded history, only 268 have seen no war, and of course that was war on a larger scale. There have been smaller armed conflicts that have been throughout all of human history. Historians estimate that since the time of Christ, there have been almost 15,000 wars. And in those 15,000 wars, they estimate that some 3.64 billion people have died. In other words, in the wars since the time of Christ, the equivalent of half of the population of the world today died. In the 20th century alone, historians estimate that close to 150 million people died in wars. Last century, 150 million people died through war. Right now as we sit here this morning, there are twelve wars raging around this planet; wars that are causing at least a thousand casualties every year. And if you add to those, the armed conflicts with fewer than a thousand casualties each year, which is how they keep track of these things, you're looking at more than 30 wars right now, as we sit here today.

But human conflict is not just found on the battlefield. There are conflicts and fights on every possible level. Right now, in our own country we see this. If you're not aware of this, you haven't been reading the newspaper, or you haven't been listening to the news. In addition to fighting two wars abroad, we find ourselves with a vitriolic conflict between our political parties, and within our political parties. There is conflict of various groups of various kinds, between the NBA and its players, between unions and companies, between Occupy Wall Street and corporate America. And on and on it goes. The list is endless.

But there is also conflict on a very personal level—on the stage of our families and our relationships. One of the most frequent calls that police receive is for domestic disturbance, conflict in the home of some kind. What our world desperately needs and does not have is peace, and those who bring peace into their relationships. In the seventh beatitude, that we come to today, Jesus says that is exactly what the people who belong to His kingdom are like. They bring peace into the world and into all of their relationships. Look at Matthew 5 with me. Matthew 5:9, the seventh of eight beatitudes. Jesus describes the marks of those who are already a part of His spiritual kingdom, to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs. He says, and Matthew writes, in verse 9. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" Jesus says blessed. That word means spiritually prosperous. Spiritually whole are those who no longer create conflict, sustain conflict, tolerate conflict, but instead, who seek peace in their relationships. Now, again, this beatitude is far deeper than it appears on the surface, and I want us to sort of drill down into that truth this morning. In this beatitude, either on the surface of it or lying just beneath the surface, we can see several realities about true and lasting peace. So lets unfold these things together.

Let's begin with the meaning of peace. As we often have to do, before we consider what Jesus means here, let's make sure we know what He doesn't mean. Because, unfortunately, this beatitude has been misquoted and abused by various radical views, particularly radical political views. So let's make sure what it doesn't mean. First of all, it does not mean that all conflict is wrong. Jesus Himself said that loyalty to Him would bring conflict, at times, into our relationships. He said, I did not come to bring peace but a sword. There will be conflict between family members over me, He said. So, all conflict is not wrong. Secondly it does not mean that self-defense is wrong. We'll talk more about this later in the sermon, when Jesus talks about turning the other cheek. Neither this beatitude nor that staement means that self-defense is wrong. The Old Testament law made very clear occasion for self defense and defending your life, and that hasn't changed, And we'll talk about that. A third thing this doesn't mean is that war is always wrong, and true Christians must be pacifists. That's not what this is saying. Clearly, based on the wars that God Himself commanded Old Testament Israel to be involved in, and the ultimate war that He someday will bring in the person of His own Son, war, inherently is not sinful. Most wars are, but there is such a thing as a righteous and just war. That's a different message for a different time, but that's not what He's saying here.

Another thing that Jesus isn't saying, is Jesus is not praising those who simply have a naturally peaceful disposition. There are some people who just are peaceful. They are peace-loving. They don't want any conflict, and so they go through life relatively peaceful. And they're just that, naturally. Even unbelievers can have that sort of disposition. That's not what Jesus is talking about here. He's not talking about the peaceful, but the peace-makers. One is passive. The other is active. Another thing Jesus doesn't mean here is: He's not encouraging appeasement. He's not saying, just have peace at all costs, and if there is someone who is attacking, just keep appeasing them. Last century in Europe, they learned that lesson all too well from Hitler. To appease someone often merely postpones the conflict, and makes the conflict more violent and horrible when it comes. That's not what He's talking about here. And finally, Jesus is not here praising those who just try to avoid conflict because they don't like it. There are very few people who like conflict. If you're one of those, that's not a good thing, as you'll see as we go through this message this morning. Most people, however, don't like conflict. But there are some people who dislike conflict so much that they do everything they can to avoid it, even when it's right. That's not what Jesus is talking about here, so don't hurt your arm sort of patting yourself on the back, if you're one of those people who just doesn't like conflict and so you just run from it at all costs. That's not what He's talking about.

In fact, this raises an important question. Is it ever right for Christians to fight? Is it ever right for Christians to be locked in conflict with other Christians? Ever thought about that question? Is it ever right? The answer, biblically, is yes. But only if it's for the right reasons. And the Bible only gives us two reasons for conflict with other Christians. One of those is in church discipline. Our Lord commands us to confront, and believe me it's conflict when you, even graciously, confront the sin of another brother or sister in Christ. But we're commanded to do it even if it creates conflict. The other point of command is in defense of the faith. It is right to have conflict if you're defending the faith. Jude, in his little letter says, "earnestly contend for the faith". In 2 Timothy, Paul tells Timothy to be a good soldier against those who would bring error into the Christian faith. I was reading yesterday—re-reading a book that I read many years ago now. It's a book I highly recommend to you, by the English Puritan who pastored in London, a man by the name of Richard Sibbs. He wrote a book called The Bruised Reed. You find yourself discouraged as a believer. You're feeling the weight of your sin, then this is a wonderful book. And if you are discouraged for any reason, or if you're not discouraged, you just want to rehearse the truth, it's a great book. But in the preface to this book, they quote Richard Sibbs as saying this. "A curse lies upon those that, when the truth suffers, have not a word to defend it" We are commanded to be involved in conflict when the truth is at stake. The most graphic example of this, of course—you don't need to read it now, but some time this afternoon or this week, read Galatians 2. Paul publicly has a conflict with Peter and the rest of the apostles about the truth of the gospel. So, is it okay for Christians to have a conflict? Yes, if it's in pursuing church discipline, and if it's over the truth of the Christian faith. And if it's done with the right motive, for the glory of God and obedience to the scripture, and not to make a name for yourself or to get back at someone, or whatever other motive you might have. And if you're doing it with the right spirit and in the right way. You can have the right cause and do it in the wrong way. Even conflict for a Godly cause must never be in the spirit of a quarrel or an argument. It must never be accompanied by the sins of attitude and speech that accompany most sinful arguments. I won't take you there, but think about Ephesians 4:31. There, in the context of relationships, Paul says, listen, if you're a believer I don't want you doing these things. He says, let all bitterness and wrath (the Greek word for wrath is clamming up, it's the anger that's quiet, sullen) or anger (that's the Greek word for blowing up, so both kinds of anger) or clamor (it's a bad translation because we never use the word clamor. It means yelling in an argument) So don't clam up, don't blow up, don't yell. Slander (The word means namecalling). You get in an argument, you get in a fight, you're yelling, what do you do? You start slandering the other person. You start saying things about them, name calling. You so and so. Paul says let all of these be put away from you. So even if the cause is right, the approach can not be sinful. If your argument or fight is in obedience to God, if your motive is the glory of God, and if you're fighting in a gracious spirit, then conflict is okay. But 99.99 percent of the conflict and arguments in our lives are sinful, and in those cases, God wants there to be peace.

Now, with that, let's look at the word. Look again at Matthew 5:9. Note the word peacemaker. In Greek, as in English, the word is made up of a compound word. Paul has simply put two Greek words together. I want us for now just to consider the first half of the word, the word peace. We need to understand what Jesus is even talking about here. What is this peace? The Greek word for peace does not describe a feeling. It's not a calm feeling I have in my heart. I just feel peace. That's not what he's talking about. Instead, this word describes an objective state. In Greek terms, it describes the absence of war or the cessation of war. It's the end of war. It's to bring an end to active fighting. One of the leading Greek lexicons that defines this word defines it like this. "For the Greeks, peace primarily denotes a state, not a relationship or attitude. It is the opposite of war. It is linked with treaties of peace." So we're talking here about two parties involved in conflict or war on a personal level. And peace is the cessation of those hostilities, of that war. But it's not just the absence of war, because you can have the absence of war with a temporary truce. You can have the absence of war with a cease-fire that only lasts for a short period of time. A lot of marriages are punctuated by cease-fires, but mostly conflict. That's not what we're talking about here. The root word from which the word peace comes means to bind or join together that which is broken or divided. It describes wholeness—a completely harmonious relationship. Not a truce, not a cease-fire, but when two parties who've been fighting come together in a whole, healthy relationship. Ultimately it's based on the Hebrew word for peace which is what? Shalom. It means wholeness, well-being. When it's used of relationships it refers to a relationship that is in a state of health or well-being. So then, the peace Jesus has in mind here is bringing conflict between two parties to an end, and establishing between them an objective state of peace and relational health or wholeness. That's peace. It doesn't mean a cease-fire. It doesn't mean a truce. It means coming together in a harmonious, whole, healthy relationship.

Now that brings us to the second reality we need to note, and that is the need for peace. Because lying just under the surface of this seventh beatitude is a terrible reality. We need peacemakers because man by nature is characterized by what? Conflict. That conflict taints and destroys every single relationship. This is who we are by nature. And specifically, our nature to be involved in conflict, expresses itself in two ways. It expresses itself vertically toward God and horizontally toward people. Let's consider both of those.

First of all, toward God, we could put it like this. Every human being is at war with God. Now, I'm not making this up. This isn't my word; you'll see in a moment. This is clearly what the scripture teaches. As rebellious sinners before Christ, we are hostile toward God. We put other gods in His place. We worship something other than the true God. We made ourselves God's enemies. You say, well wait a minute. I never made myself God's enemy. I tolerated the idea that there was a God. Well, listen to what God says. This is in James 4. "do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?" If you love the things that characterize God's enemies; if you love the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life; if you live for the things other people live for, God says simply by that decision, you have made yourself My enemy. For "whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." So you don't have to say I'm going to be God's enemy, and I'm going to put my fist in God's face and let Him do whatever He wants. You don't have to do that. All you have to do is choose to love the things God hates. And when you do that, you make yourself His enemy. In Romans 8:7, Paul writes unbelievers are hostile toward God. So we are hostile toward God, clearly. But the far greater problem—the far more overwhelming problem– is that God is hostile toward us. We think of countries being at war. What does that mean, when we say countries are at war? Well before their war actually begins, several things usually happen. Usually there's conflict on the diplomatic level, and one of the countries will break off their diplomatic ties to the other country. And then they'll close their embassy in that country. All of this is a prelude for war, but war has not yet broken out. They're still not technically in a state of war. Something else has to happen first. One of the countries has to declare war, either by attacking that other country, or by a verbal declaration of war. Only then are the two countries technically at war. That's exactly the situation between every human being and God. God has formally declared war on us, just as we declared war on God by loving the things He hates. You say, I don't think that's true. I don't like that idea. In fact you might even argue that you don't feel like, and have never felt like, God's enemy. You may even say, I feel close to God. But that's not what God says about all of us apart from God's grace. In Romans 5:10, Paul couldn't be any clearer. He says all unbelievers are God's enemies. I want you to personalize that for just a moment. Every single person in this room this morning has, at one time in your life, and may still be, if you're not in Christ, declared yourself to be an enemy of God by the choices you made—according to God. And God in turn has declared Himself to be at war with you, to be your enemy, because of those choices that you made. Paul makes the same point in different language. In Romans 1 he says, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" Right now, everything looks fine. Everybody lives in life and enjoys life and it doesn't look like God's an enemy at all. Listen to what 2 Thessalonians 1:7 says

the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,

Folks, the reality is, God is at war with every unbeliever. God and man are by nature in a state of war.

But man's problem with conflict doesn't just affect his vertical relationship with God. It also colors all of his horizontal relationships. We could put it like this. Every human being is at war with others. By nature, we are all born with a propensity for personal conflict. Now if you doubt that, I want you to do a little experiment this morning. Before you leave this campus, I want you to go, after the service, and just stick your head in the toddler nursery here at church. And watch as those cute innocent little children battle to the death over what? a plastic toy, and one that has slobber all over it. And they do that even though that toy doesn't belong to either of them, and they can't take it home. They're only going to have it for a few seconds, but it's worth the fight. It's worth the conflict. Why is that? It's the principle of the thing. You've got it–I want it. We are born with a propensity to conflict. Tragically, that propensity to conflict which can be almost cute at toddler age; it becomes more subtle sometimes, but it gets uglier. And it becomes more a factor of human life than ever, as we grow up.

I remember my first exposure to this, sort of out of context. I had worked in the shipyards for many years, so there isn't much I haven't seen or experienced in the lowest level of human life. And I saw fights, had to break up fights. So I understand that adult men do that. But there are some contexts in which you just don't expect that. I remember I was riding on the freeway soon after I moved to Los Angeles back in 1987, riding on this twelve lane freeway, and I got a front row seat for a conflict that was totally unexpected. I watched as these two late-model high-end Mercedes with men at the drivers seats, who both (as I watched this unfold) were dressed in, you know, Italian designer suits. These are business men who have advanced in their career, who have perhaps their own companies, and apparently one of them nosed out the other one in the contest for position in the lane. That happens sometimes in LA. I hate to admit to it, but I participated in that some myself. And one of them did this, and the response was unbelieveable. I sat there and (I'm sure my jaw was dropped as I watched) you know, having moved from the south, and never seen two grown men like this almost come to blows. Literally, they were hanging out the windows of their cars in their expensive clothes, yelling obscenities at each other, shouting at one another, and it was all about one car length.

You see, conflict is a part of human life. And often, thanks to the controls God has put in place we don't see it, but sometimes the veneer slips aside and we see the reality of that conflict come out. In Romans 3:17, as Paul indicts all of humanity, he says this about all of us. He says "the way of peace they have not known." It's foreign to us. Parents, government, even peer pressure can keep the conflict in check, but it's always seething there, just below the surface. And given the right occasion and the right environment, my guess is, within the next two weeks we'll see something on the front page of our newspapers, where the veneer has slipped aside and that conflict has erupted in some unexpected place. It's always there just below the surface. Titus 3:3 describing all of mankind including us before we came to faith in Christ says, we also once were "hateful and hating one another." This is who we are, who we were by nature before Christ. Turn over to Galatians 5. Here in Galatians 5, Paul describes how fallenness expresses itself in life. Galations 5:19. He's contrasting those who are led by the Spirit with those who live controlled by their fallenness, basically believers and unbelievers. Verse 19. "Now the deeds of the flesh (the deeds that our fallenness commits) are evident (and then he begins with a list of sexual sins, both of body and of mind) immorality, impurity, sensuality." Then idolatry, as Calvin said the human heart is like an idol factory. We find something to worship other than the true God. Sorcery, that's the black arts. It also includes drugs. The word sorcery in Greek is pharmakeia, from which we get our word pharmacy, because drugs were often used to induce this sort of connection to the dark. And then he comes to relational sins. Notice how many of them there are. Here's how fallenness expresses itself: "enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying." There's a huge list of relational sins that are an expression of fallenness. And then he adds "drunkenness and carousing." And just to make sure we're clear this isn't a comprehensive list "and things like these of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who (as a habit of life) practice such things (this is characteristic of who they are) they will not inherit the kingdom of God". They're not going to be in heaven. They don't belong to Christ, if these are the characteristics of their lives. But notice how fallenness destroys relationships. Look at the number of sins in that list that are absolutely death to relationships. It's no wonder our lives are filled with conflict. So, where exactly does this propensity to conflict come from? Why? Turn over to James 4, because James answers that question. I wish I had time to really walk you through this passage. If you haven't listened in a while, or if you weren't here when I went through it, go back and listen to the series on James 4:1-10, because it's absolutely foundational for relationships, and for settling conflicts in relationships. But let me just show you what he says here. James 4:1 "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?" By the way, that's a question that's not a question, like– you're not wearing that out are you? This is a statement. The source of the conflicts and quarrels that we have, is the pleasures that we have. Here's how it works, verse 2. You crave something. This isn't just a sexual word, the word lust, it includes that but it's crave. You crave something and somebody gets in the way of the satisfaction of that craving, and conflict erupts. Oh, you can crave a lot of different things. You can crave just being left alone. You can crave control of the remote. You can crave any number of things. But there's something that you crave. Understand this, this week. When conflict breaks out in your life, stop youself and ask yourself this question. What sinful, selfish pleasure or desire is being thwarted that's causing me to respond this way in conflict? That's what James says. You lust and don't have–so somebody crosses that desire,you don't get what you want–and so you respond with a fight. You commit murder, probably not literally murder here, although it can lead to that. He's just saying relationally, you commit murder. You are envious, you can't obtain, so you fight and quarrel. There's something you want that you can't have, and that creates conflict. It gets worse. Verse 4. He's still in a paragraph about conflict in relationships and he says something shocking. "You adulteresses" Whoa, time out, James. How do we go there? How do we go from quarreling in a relationship to spiritual adultery. James says this is the real sin that lies behind our conflicts. Because it means we are worshipping our pleasures and desires more than we're worshipping the true God. We have committed spiritual adultery against God. So understand, if relations in your life are in settled conflict, it's because there is some pleasure, some desire you want satisfied, and that other person is standing in the way of it. And in the end, it is spiritual adultery, because that desire has become more important to you, and you worship it rather than God, who said there ought to be peace in your relationships. By the way, I encourage you to study, at some point, verses 6 through 10 because the answer is grace. That's the answer. The only way to overcome conflict is grace. God has to extend that grace to you and you have to beg Him for it. You have to humble yourself, He says. Weep over your sin. Repent, and so forth.

So, we have this desperate need for peace. We are in a settled state of war—war with God, and war with the people around us. So if our situation is that bad, where does the possibility of peace come from? We've seen the meaning of peace. We've seen the need for peace. Let's consider thirdly the foundation of peace. Where does the possibility of peace with God and peace in our relationships come from? If you look at Matthew 5:9, Jesus says "blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." Jesus is clearly saying there are human beings who are no longer sold out to conflict, but who have come to experience peace and to make peace. How? Where did that come from? We're born with a propensity for conflict with God and others, so how did these people get to be peacemakers? What I want you to understand is, the beatitudes are filled with the gospel. This is the gospel here, because He's saying to us you have to be radically changed at the heart level. You were born in conflict, and a mode for conflict, on every level, but now you become a peacemaker. What makes that possible? What makes it possible for us who are ensconced in conflict by nature, to become peacemakers? Peace is possible for three reasons. First of all, the character of God. Peace is possible because of the character of God. God is by nature a God of peace. He is characterized by peace in His nature. The Trinity is the source of peace. God the Father, for example. In 1 Corinthians 14:33, we're told that He's

"not a God of confusion but a God of peace". Five times in the New Testament He's described as the God of peace. It's His nature. God the Son is of peace. You remember Isaiah 9: 6, where He's prophesied as the One who will come? We're told a child will be born, a Son will be given, and He's described in several ways. One of those is as the Prince of what? Peace. The Prince who will bring, and establish, who will make peace. In Isaiah 52:7, as Isaiah comments on the Messiah and His coming. He says "How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him (speaking primarily about Jesus, but ultimately about us as well, how lovely on the mountains are the feet of him) who brings good news (the gospel) who announces peace". It's why Jesus came, to announce peace. God the Holy Spirit is also characterized by peace. In Galatians 5 we're told that He's the one who produces peace in the heart of every one who has it. So peace is possible because it's part of the nature of God. Why? Why is peace part of the nature of God? It's who He is relationally. You think there are conflicts between the members of the Trinity? You think the Father and the Son get into an argument? You think the Spirit and the Son lock into conflict in their relationship? Absolutely not. They enjoy nothing but peaceful harmony. And because that's who He is, peace is possible for us as well.

There's a second reason peace is possible, and that's the mission of the Son. God sent Jesus to make peace between Himself and sinful men. This was Jesus' mission. In Luke chapter 1, when Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist breaks out into that poem, celebration of–he's going to get to be the father of the one who's going to announce Messiah. He says this about the Messiah in Luke 1:79 The Messiah will come "TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, To guide our feet into the way of peace." Jesus came to establish peace in our relationships—with God and with others. In Luke 2:14, you remember the angels announced to the shepherds the birth of Jesus there in the field outside of Bethlehem, and they say "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth ( this child will bring) peace among men with whom He is pleased." or peace with men on whom He shows His favor. Christ made peace. In fact, let me show you this. Turn to Ephesians 2. You remember our study of this, now a number of years ago. Ephesians 2:13. He's talking here about Gentiles who were once completely alienated from God. "But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." He's saying, Christ, by His death made peace between you and God. There's peace, the war's over. There's not hostility any more. And then he says, it goes further in verse 14 to our relationships. "for Christ Himself is our peace, and He made both groups (here he's talking about Jews and Gentiles) into one (in the church) and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall" Think about this. Not only did Christ make peace with God, but Christ even brought peace in relationships, so that one of the longest, settled animosities on the planet—that between Jew and Gentile—they're brought together in a peaceful relationship in the church. Christ is the only one who can do that. Jesus is the great peacemaker.

But how did Jesus accomplish that peace? That brings us to the third reason peace is possible, and that is the gospel of peace. In Ephesians 6 Paul calls it that—the gospel of peace. The gospel which brings peace between us and God, and peace between us and others. What Jesus accomplished on the cross is the only solution to the conflict that is so much a part of all of our lives. God has to change us at the heart level. And that change was made possible through the death of Jesus Christ. The word peacemaker in Matthew 5 only occurs one time in the New Testament. The related verb also only occurs one time in the New Testament. Look at Colossians 1. Here we're told how this peace was secured. Colossians 1:19. "For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness (of deity is the idea here) to dwell in Christ, and through Christ to reconcile all things to Himself, having (here's our word) made peace. . ." How did God make peace through Christ? It was through the blood of His cross. It was through His sacrifice. God had to do that to bring peace between us and Him. He had to do that to bring peace between us and others. Now, this is absolutely crucial to understand. What Colossians 1 is saying is this. Those who are peacemakers are only that way because they have already found peace with God. Until you have made peace with God, you will not, you cannot, consistently have peace with others. Jesus is the only one who can bring peace—peace with God, and peace with others. If there's conflict in your relationships, listen, you will never fix that on your own. It can't happen. Jesus Christ is the only one who can bring peace. He is the peace maker.

So, the foundation of peace is the character of God, the mission of the Son, and the gospel of peace. Where that foundation is laid in the life, there can be fourthly, the practice of peace. Look again back at Matthew 5. "Blessed are the peacemakers" We've already looked at the first half of that word, peace. It's an objective cessation of hostilities. Now, let's look at the other half and sort of fill out what Jesus is saying here. The second half of the word is makers. It's the normal Greek word for making or doing something. Here, it obviously means to make peace—to actively seek to resolve conflict. That's what it means. Blessed are those who actively seek to resolve conflict. But what does that mean practically? How does that flesh out? Well, if you look at the rest of scripture, it fleshes out like this. First of all, we must pursue peace between sinners and God. Listen, nobody can have relational peace that lasts, until they have peace with God. And so that means, if we're going to be peacemakers, it starts by introducing them to peace with God. Turn over to 2 Corinthians 5. This is the very mission God has given to each one of us. 2 Corinthians 5:18. Paul says "Now all these things (that is, our being a new creature, a new creation in Christ—new things coming) are from God, who reconciled us to Himself,

(He took the initiative to reconcile us to Himself through Christ, and notice this) He gave us the ministry of reconciliation." Listen, if you are a Christian, you have the ministry of reconciliation—of seeing sinners reconciled to God. Notice what he says,

namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, (He's talking about the cross here) not counting their tresspasses against them, (Now that the cross has happened) He has committed to us the word (or the message) of reconciliation. Therefore, (here's the practical result)we(all of us) are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled; (make peace)with God. (And that's possible because of verse 21) He made Him (that is Christ) who knew no sin to

be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him

Folks, that's our ministry, that's our message, that's our mission in life. Let me just ask you pointedly, when is the last time you shared the gospel with someone else? When is the last time you communicated the truth that God has sought to be reconciled to sinners? You have sinned against and violated your king. You've rebelled against His laws. You have used and abused His gifts, but He has sought to be reconciled to you through His Son.

A second practical practice of peace is, we must practice peace between ourselves and others. Sometimes conflict is between us and someone else. We must pursue peace with them. Psalm 34:14 "Seek peace and pursue it." Romans 12:18. "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men" There are times when somebody will not be reconciled to us. You can't help that. But Paul says, as far as it depends on you, do everything you can to be at peace with all men. Hebrews 12:14. "Pursue peace with all men." Let me as you a question. As you sit right here this morning, are you in a state of conflict with someone else? Maybe it's a spouse. Maybe it's a family member, a sibling, a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor. If there's a state of conflict right now in your life, let me ask you a follow-up question. Could you stand before Christ today, and say that you have done everything you can do to seek peace in that relationship? If not, then you're not living like a peacemaker. That's what it means to be a peacemaker.

Now, there's a third expression of this practice of peace. We must pursue peace between others who are in conflict. Now it's not with us. There's somebody else in our lives—there are two parties or two groups in our lives who are at conflict with one another. We must even seek to pursue peace between them. Not only does the peacemaker refuse to initiate sinful conflict with others, but when he can, he tries to bring those in his life who are in conflict, into a state of peace. Don't misunderstand now. This doesn't mean you go around like some sanctimonious Henry Kissinger, trying to fix all relationships. Wisdom doesn't try to insert itself into the business of others. But there are plenty of times, in our own sphere of relationships, there are people who are in conflict. And when and where it's possible, a peacemaker will try to establish peace between people who are living in that conflict.

A great example of this is Abraham. Go back to Genesis 13. I brought this passage to your attention a few weeks ago, when we were talking about meekness because you have to be meek, you have to be humble, to be a peacemaker. Notice what Abraham does in Genesis 13:5.

Now Lot, who went with Abram also had flocks and herds and tents". (Here are two wealthy men. Remember Abraham was one of the wealthiest men in the East at the time. He was also one of the most humble as we'll see). . .the land couldn't sustain them (verse 6–it was just too much) while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock." (so those who were keeping the animals were in conflict. Abram's not in conflict with them. But he's a peacemaker, and so–verse 8) . . .Abram said to Lot, please let there be no strife between you and me nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we're brothers.

By the way that's one way to solve conflict, is get off of the issue and remember the relationship. Sometimes, couples, for example, will argue about the smallest things and destroy the relationship over something inconsequential. They're not thinking about the relationship at that point, they're thinking about the issue. Here, he brings it back to the relationship. We're brothers. This doesn't matter that much in the scope of our relationship. And so, he says, verse 9

"Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me;" We can't both stay together in this case, with our herds, so you choose. You go left, I'll go right. You go right, I'll go left. You choose whatever you want. Abram, here, is being a peacemaker. He's settling conflict between others.

Believers are the only ones that can do this consistently. Unbelievers can occasionally act as peacemakers, but it's an aberration. It's not who they really are. Instead, they are consistently characterized by conflict, the Bible says. But true Christians don't merely broker peace occasionally. They are known as, Jesus says, characterized by, they are peacemakers. Now, folks, that is not something you or I can do on our own. Only God can produce that change in us. That's why, in Galatians 5:22 Paul says the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit the Spirit produces when He's in your life is what? Peace. But as a result of that peace the Spirit produces in us, a true Christian does not consistently, and that's the word I want to underline, does not consistently stir up conflict between others, start conflict, sustain conflict, ignore conflict, tolerate conflict. Instead, a true Christian is by nature a maker of peace.

So, we've seen the meaning of peace, the need for peace, the foundation of peace, the practice of peace. Finally, I want you to see the blessing of peace. Back in Matthew 5:9 Look at the second half. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God". Like the other beatitudes, the second half of this verse contains Jesus' promise to the peacemakers. Here is why they are spiritually prosperous. Listen to the order in the Greek text, because you get something of the emphasis Jesus wanted to make. Here's how He spoke it. "they and they alone sons of God shall be called." Who will call them sons of God? Well, like the other beatitudes, this is a divine passive. God's not mentioned, but He's the doer of the action. God will call peacemakers His sons. It's remarkable. In the Old Testament, sons of God can refer to angels. But in the New Testament that expression always refers to human beings whom God has made a part of His family by the new birth, and by adoption. I love that. We're twice His. He's birthed us into His family by the new birth, and He's adopted us as well. In fact look over to Matthew 5:44 and 45. He says, you know,

". . .love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven;"

We're truly sons of God. Here is Jesus' point. Being a peacemaker is one of the marks of those who truly belong to His spiritual kingdom. You want to know if you belong to Jesus? Ask yourself if you consistently manifest the quality of a peacemaker. Or is your life all wrapped up in conflict of all kinds?

When we are peacemakers we are reflecting the character of our new Father, who's adopted us, who is by nature a peacemaker. We show by our actions that we are already His sons, as 1 John 3:1 says, but Jesus is talking about something else here. He says God will call us His sons. What's He talking about? He's talking about the future. Let me take you in your mind's eye for a moment to a day that is every bit as real as the day in which we're living right now—to a place every bit as real as the place where you're sitting right now. It's the judgment throne of God. And God has made it clear that every single one of us will stand before that throne. At one time or another we will all be there. And Jesus is saying that when I stand before God at the judgment, He will identify me as one of His sons. He will publicly, openly, declare to all the intelligent beings in the universe that I'm one of the ones He adopted. And I evidence that He has adopted me, and that He has given me peace with Him, by the fact that I live at peace with others, that He's changed my heart so that when conflict does arise, I am a peace maker. On the other hand, those who do not belong to Jesus and to His kingdom, belong to Satan's kingdom, and they're not characterized by peace, but by conflict. Remember on the day Jesus preached this sermon, He gave these beatitudes, but He also pronounced a corresponding woe on those who do the opposite of them. So Jesus, that day, according to Luke, said woe to those who live in settled conflict. Listen, if your life is characterized by conflict and fighting, Jesus says you are not blessed. You are not spiritually prosperous, and He says you don't belong to His spiritual kingdom. Moreover, when you stand before God at the judgment, He will not call you His son or His daughter. And unless you're willing to repent and follow Christ, you will always be at war with God, and you'll often be at war with the people around you. And the most tragic reality of all is that you will spend all of eternity unreconciled to God and unreconciled to others. But it doesn't have to be that way. You can have peace with God and peace with others if you're willing to humble yourself before God—to come to Him like a beggar acknowledging your desperate need to be changed, to have peace with Him, and to have peace with others. Only He can do that, through Jesus Christ.

As a pastor, I have the privilege of hearing first-hand many remarkable stories of how God has brought peace into lives that are characterized by conflict. There's a couple in our church who especially come to mind. Don't worry, I asked their permission to share this. I don't intend to mention their names, but I called them to ask if I could share their story briefly. This couple, who hoped to be in attendance this morning, lived together as husband and wife for eighteen years before they came to Jesus Christ. And for many of those eighteen years, they didn't like each other at all, and they lived in a settled state of conflict, so bad that they lived on different floors of the same house, often went through periods of time without speaking. But then, God saved both of them. If you were to interact with them today, and you do, because they're part of our church, you would never imagine what God has done. You would never imagine it, because you would be amazed at the love and the tenderness that they show for one another. One of them right now is going through some serious physical issues, and they love and care for one another. They've even been able to help counsel couples who are locked in conflict. How did that happen? How did they go from that settled state of conflict where they lived on different floors of the same house, to a loving gracious couple characterized by tenderness, and love, and peace. The answer is God. God changed their hearts. The Spirit of God brought them peace with Himself, and then produced peace in them that radiated out into their relationships, including their marriage. And God can do the same in your life. If you can come to have peace with God through His Son, the Holy Spirit will produce peace in your heart, that loves peace in your relationship with others, and makes peace. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons and daughters of God.

Let's pray together. Father, thank You for the words of our Lord. Father, I pray for those here this morning who are still at war with You. I pray that today would be the day when they would humble themselves. Oh, God, work in their hearts. May they cry out to You for peace with You—the end of the war. That You would adopt them, that You would make them part of Your family, that You would call them sons and daughters. Father, I pray for the rest of us, Lord, that you would help us to live as peacemakers. May we strive to see others be at peace with You through the gospel, and Father, may we in our own interactions, pursue peace. And Father, even pursue peace between others in our lives who are at war with one another, who are in conflict with one another. Lord may we be consistently known in our homes, and in our marriages, and in our families, and in our church, and in our communities, and in our schools, and in our workplaces; may we who name Your name, be known as the makers of peace. We pray in Jesus' name and for His sake, Amen.